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A Great New Pitching Chart

By: Cindy Bristow

Do you chart every single pitch and end up with a chart looking like one of Einstein’s physics formulas? Or you don’t have time to do anything with all the info but you keep on charting? Then find a quick and easy answer to your charting problems.


Charting anything should give you information that’s fast and accurate – otherwise it’s a waste of time! If you end up with a bunch of information that you never have time to use then what good is it? Discover an amazing pitching chart that is not only simple, but also extremely powerful for your pitchers.

During this past Women’s College World Series I met with a dear friend of mine – Missy Lombardi, Assistant Coach from University of Oklahoma – who is one of the best pitching minds in the business. Missy is always finding better ways to do things and we enjoy bouncing ideas off each other. During this discussion Missy showed me a very simple, and yet amazingly effective way of charting pitches she’d come up with that we both felt was fantastic.

While it doesn’t really have a name, I call it Above the Line Charting as that’s basically the whole goal, to keep things “above the line” – you’ll see what I mean in a second. Tracking results & information – or charting – has become a psychotic obsession in our game now and it’s not going away anytime soon, nor should it. But I find that too many people spend too much time charting and never really do much with the finished product. Time is an issue for all of us and one of the things I find so incredible about this Above the Line Charting is that it’s so simple and all the information you need is immediately apparent without having to translate it, print it out, or otherwise further process the charted info.

Let’s take a quick look at a few innings that Monica Abbot recently pitched when the USA National Softball beat Australia in the Finals of the KFC World Cup of Softball.

Fastpitch Softball pitching charts learning how to chart and what matters

At first glance this Above the Line Charting might look confusing but keep these simple principles in mind:

  1. Start by drawing a line from left to right across your sheet. This line acts as Ground Zero for all pitches – you’ll see why soon.
  2. Every pitch is shown by a dot.
  3. Every Strike the dot goes UP from the previous dot.
  4. Every Ball the dot goes DOWN from the previous dot.
  5. After every batter put a thin line up and down.
  6. After every inning put a thick line up and down.

It’s really that simple. That’s one thing I really love about this – it’s really simple and yet very powerful. So just based on these 6 principles we can tell the following from looking at this Above the Line chart:

  • Monica threw to 10 batters (note that these batters were not consecutive in this particular game, I’ve pulled out a few to use as an example)
  • She spent most of her time – or pitches – Above the Line – throwing 27 Strikes & 13 balls. That’s pretty good!

For many of our pitchers this might be enough information to help them see just how often they are “getting ahead” since it’s actually showing pitches in the form of a picture.

But for many of us, this just isn’t enough information so of course we’ve got to make even the simple more complex! And, without doing that to the degree that this type of “simple chart” loses its effectiveness, here’s what I’ve done to provide just a little more necessary detail without getting so much information it’s all a big fat useless mess.

Fastpitch Softball pitching charts learning how to chart and what to chart

I’ve broken this now-more-cluttered chart into 3 different parts, so let’s talk about each one:

  1. In this part I’ve simply put letters over each dot and these letters represent what that particular pitch was: C for Curve, R for Rise, D for Drop, etc… I’ve also listed the result for that batter in bolder letters after the last pitch, so K is for Strikeout, 4-3 is a groundout to 2nd base who threw to 1st, 1B is a single and HR – well, we’ll get to that in a minute. So by adding the type of pitch above or below the dot you can see which pitch and in which order was a ball or strike and what the result for the batter was. You can mark foul balls by putting a little dot next to the type of pitch. Monica threw to 3 batters in (1) striking out 2 of them and getting the 3rd batter to ground out to 2nd on a Riseball (odd, isn’t it?)
  2. In the second part I start off showing each type of pitch for the 1st batter and then for the remaining 2 hitters I just show whether that pitch was a ball or strike (remember, by the dot either going up (strike) or down (ball) and what happened to the hitter. I just want you to see how the type of pitch often clutters up the look. You’ll notice in this second portion that Monica starts hanging out Below the Line more than she did in the first part – which might be something you’d want to look at later on.
  3. In the 3rd part you can see that she starts off behind 2-0 on the first hitter and ends up striking her out, but must literally climb the hill in order to do it. This is a great visual example for pitchers to see how tough it becomes when you fall behind early. In fact, look at all the batters that Monica faces in this example (10 of them) and just pay attention to how often she throws a strike in one of the 1st 2 pitches: 9 out of 10. That’s one reason she’s so successful! Now – look at the very last hitter in this example. It’s Stacey Porter who is Australia’s best hitter. Monica gets ahead, and then throws a ball, then a strike followed by 2 balls in a row. And it’s the 2 balls in a row that force Monica to have to get back to the line and she throws a strike that’s too fat and – Home Run! She really battled her control on this hitter and the hitter won. It happens sometimes but you can see through the dots how she never spent much time Above the Line with this hitter! That’s the power of this type of charting!

Whether you ever end up using this type of simplified pitching chart or not, I don’t know, but I do hope that I’ve stretched your mind a bit to the possibility of finding a different way of doing the same thing. Missy is the one that helped me find this method and like I said, I’ve shared it with a number of coaches since then and the overwhelming feedback is they love it for its simplicity and for how powerful it is for their pitchers

For more information on charting check out the following:

Filed under: Advanced,Pitching,Strategy — Tags: , , — Cindy Bristow @ 8:04 pm

13 Comments »

  1. This is great. As a high school coach I have been looking for a chart players could use to chart pitches for me. This will work out great.

    Comment by Scalf — October 20, 2009 @ 7:15 am

  2. I have just one question: Does it matter if the strike was a legitimate strike in the strike zone or if it was a swing and a miss at a breaking pitch out of the strike zone? I think this chart is very easy for someone to do and would greatly aid in illustrating areas of control in a game to a pitcher. I am a father of a 13 year old 8th grader(will be 14 in two months)who is throwing in the upper 50′s consistently and has hit the 60 mph mark on occasion. She has developed a good curve, change up and a mediocre drop. I would like to know if there is any importance of throwing a curve ball outside the strike zone and getting a swing and a miss would be just as important as getting a called strike and if this chart could be modified to add this bit of information?

    Comment by Anthony Basile — October 20, 2009 @ 7:36 am

  3. This is great. I will surely try this with my young pitchers and go up through the older ones.

    Comment by Carmelita Haynes — October 20, 2009 @ 8:33 am

  4. I like this and will try it this weekend. I use my chart for three things (1) So I know how we worked this batter in a previous at bat or game and (2) What the outcome of that at bat was and (3) To give my pitchers and catchers a visual on how they are performing.
    I like it, I love it, I want some more of it!
    Having Monica Abbott as one of my pitchers wouldn’t hurt either.

    Comment by Bryan Couch — October 20, 2009 @ 9:06 am

  5. Glad to hear you guys like this chart so far. Whenever you chart a strike, it doesn’t matter if it was a called strike, a swing & miss or a foul ball – unless it matters later on to you. If so, then mark the strikes differently; nothing by the dot (or the dot’s letter for that particular pitch) is a called strike, a circled dot or letter is a swung & missed strike and a small dot by the dot or letter is a foul ball. Remember, this is a great charting system because it’s simple so avoid the temptation to get too fancy. Hope that helps! Cindy

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — October 20, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  6. We tried this system during our fall practices and found it to be very useful. We have several freshmen pitchers and this really helped them. We plan to use this system to replace our old chart.

    Comment by Jeanne Arbuckle — October 20, 2009 @ 11:00 am

  7. I like the instant feedback of the chart. But it doesn’t do much for charting the location of each pitch. To me, the locations of which pitches (and type of pitch) batters, swung, missed or hit is the greatest asset to calling pitches. A pitcher who can record outs by not throwing strikes but instead exploiting weaknesses is far more successful than one who is throwing more strikes. Can you show one of those type charts?

    Comment by Patrick Douget — October 20, 2009 @ 11:00 am

  8. We have used this chart this fall and have found it extremely effective. It was very simple to teach all of our players. Our pitchers have developed a sense of pride in staying over the line and have become a lot more aggressive and as a result more confident. Our hitters use the chart as well on the opposing pitcher to see if they are staying above or below the line and what pitches they are throwing to get there. My thanks to Coach Bristow and coach Lombardi for sharing this simple chart!

    Comment by Tom Opdenbrouw — October 20, 2009 @ 11:48 am

  9. I’ve been using these charts since Cindy showed us when she was in Australia. My pitchers love to look at the charts through a game. They set themselves small goals each innings and I have seen a huge improvement in their focus. Thanks Cindy! Janell

    Comment by Janell Behrendt — October 21, 2009 @ 6:40 pm

  10. What would you do with multiple foul balls, I am guessing a dot at the same level as the strike-two dot (making a horizontal line), I don’t think you would continue “climbing the hill” with those. We have a game in a couple of hours. I am going to try this during that game. Looks great!

    Comment by Deb Rankin-Leonard — October 24, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  11. Do you have any simple hitting charts? This pitching chart is great and I am excited to use it!!!

    Comment by curtis — October 26, 2009 @ 3:41 am

  12. Thank you very much for all that you do!

    Comment by Dawn Simmons — October 27, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

  13. Curtis, Cindy has several FREE hitting charts available on the site just use the red search box on the top left of the home page and type in “Hitting Chart” (no quotes) or you can just click this link to Hitting Charts

    Comment by Robin Pokoj — November 1, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

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